O'Brien: Pack Must be Ready

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed this week's season opener against South Carolina in his weekly teleconference. O'Brien talked about several players, including Toney Baker, Russell Wilson, and South Carolina star linebacker Eric Norwood.

Q: Coach, we know that starting quarterback Russell Wilson has been getting a lot of the attention and hype on your team, but is it possible that we'll see backup Mike Glennon any?

A: Well, we haven't totally determined that yet. Somewhere in the second quarter, he's going to get in the ballgame. Whether it's one series, two series, or more he'll be on the field at some point during that time.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the running back competition that you've had up there at N.C. State and what Tony Baker has done to win the starting job?

A: Well, (Baker) has had a better camp than Jamelle (Eugene) and I think that's part of why Tony (Baker) is the starter. Jamelle missed almost all of spring practice coming off shoulder surgery, whereas Baker was just returning after having recovered from a knee injury. (Baker) certainly isn't back to being quite the running back that he was for us back in 2007, but he has had an excellent preseason camp. As far as the competition, we believe that he just was a little bit better than Jamelle at this point so he has earned the right to start for us against South Carolina.

Q: Were you and the staff at all surprised at how well Russell Wilson played after coming back from the injury that he sustained against South Carolina?

A: Like you said, he got injured in the first game against South Carolina last year. We held him out of our second game, but he came back and played in our third game which we ended up winning. We noticed something about him in that third game that made us realize that he was our guy. Starting with Boston College, we went through a three game stretch where we lost each game in seemingly the last minute of each game. Regardless of the outcome of the games, Russell made some great strides and really stepped up his game during that stretch. We also had a bunch of guys return from injury after that losing stretch. Russell's progression and the return of a bunch of starters really helped propel us to win those four consecutive games near the end of last season.

Q: Have you ever seen a player that young and inexperienced lead his team the way that Russell Wilson seemed to do for the team last season?

A: No, I've never seen a redshirt freshman do what he did. We started the season 2-6, and then somehow he was able to rebound and help lead us to the four game winning streak later in the season. So I think what he did was pretty remarkable.

Q: With South Carolina having several different offensive coaches on the staff compared to last year, are you preparing defensively for the game any different than you did last season?

A: In reading all of the articles that (the media) has written about them thus far, it sounds like they've been really committed to running the football. I think Coach Spurrier is still calling the plays, and if that's the case then they should have a pretty good offensive game plan. Certainly it sounds like they've got some pretty good running backs down there ready to run the ball, so we're going to have to be ready to stop the run.

Q: Coach, after a great performance by Eric Norwood in last year's game, have you and your staff taken any special approach to minimizing the impact that he might be able to have on this game?

A: We understand that he's the best player on their defense, and I believe that he's certainly capable of being a (NFL Draft) first round type of guy after this season. I don't know why it worked out (for him to have a great game) last year, there were just so many great players on that defense that we faced last year. With that being said, I think it'll be a similar situation for them this year defensively. I believe that they have some players on that side of the ball that will have breakout type years, so it'll be hard to focus on containing just one player.

Q: I know that you've been focusing on getting your team ready, but is there any one aspect about the South Carolina defense that sticks out above the rest to you?

A: Last year they probably had as much of shock, power, and speed of any defense that we faced last year. In reading some of the articles that have been written about them this year, I understand that this is a faster defense than they had last season. So if they play with as much shock and power then they'll be a real formidable foe for us.

Q: It was a really tight game between your team and South Carolina for nearly 2 ½ quarters last season. How much talk has there been about last year's game with your team?

A: We haven't really dwelled on that game too much. We've looked at the game tape and saw some of the personnel and a few other things that stick out to us as factors. But the fact of the matter is we're at fault for the way we messed up and the way the game ended up. We know that South Carolina is a really good football team in the SEC, and we've got to certainly play a heck of a lot better than we did last year.

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